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The Origin of the Name of Gozo

Horatio Caesar Roger Vella

The Name of Gozo paper will show, Gozo is an ancient variant of Gaudos
from which it is derived, as much as Għawdex is.
“Do you come from Għawdex?” is a question that The irony is that Gozo, Għawdex and Gaudos did
sounds as discordant as the other one, “Intom minn not originally belong to us, as I explained in other
Gozo?”. To one not conversant with the Greek origin publications of mine.1
of the names of Gozo, such questions sound like
being uttered by Maltese trying to speak English, and Gaudos is the Greek name of a small island on the
mix Maltese with English or, the other way round, south-western side of Crete, with its smaller sister
like knowledgeable tourists trying to speak Maltese island of Gaudapula. Cretan Gaudos is half the size
and, to our mind, mix it with “English”. This paper of our island of Gozo, roughly at 24˚ longitude and
will show that none is the case. 35˚ latitude (1˚ southern than our Gozo), and less
than 30 miles from Crete.
We, in fact, can use “Għawdex” liberally when
speaking in English; likewise, we can use the name The pronunciation of Cretan Gaudos from Byzantine
of “Gozo” when speaking in Maltese, for, as this times has been not Gaudos, but Gavdos, for since
those times, the Greeks developed the pronunciation
of the diphthong au as “av”, as in thauma,
pronounced as “thavma”, meaning “miracle”.
Similarly, eu is pronounced as “ev” as in Zeus
pronounced as “Zevs”, the chief god of the Greek
pantheon. However, the diphthong ou continued to
be pronounced as “u” as in “ouranos”, meaning
“heaven”, and not as “uvranos”. It should be noted
immediately that, the pronunciation of “av” and “ev”
did not exist when Gaudos started to be referred to
our Gozo during the times of Augustus, for if it did,
we would still be calling Gozo as “Għavdex”, and
not “Għawdex”. This seemingly minor point is of an
enormous importance in confirming the date when
exactly Gaudos came to be attributed, albeit wrongly,
to our archipelago.
Location of Gaudos near Crete
(Source: - Nov 2012) Greek
Classical Byzantine
Pronunciation Pronunciation
θαῦμα thauma thavma wonder
Ζεύς Zeus Zevs Zeus
οὐρανός uranos uranos heaven
Γαῦδος Gaudos Gavdos Għawdex

The Greeks and the Carthaginians in Malta and


Satellite image of the island of Gaudos If, as this paper will show, the name of Gaudos was
(Source: - Nov 2012) attributed to Gozo by Greeks, then these Greeks
understood that the island was to be recognized as
Vella (1995a, 1995b, 2002, 2010).

THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012 3

do not say “Ormi”, but “Qormi”. Furthermore,
archaeological investigation proves that waters of
the Grand Harbour reached the outskirts of Qormi
during Roman times, and Marsa Sports Ground
during the Great Siege of Malta.

If Birgu had been Borgo, one would ask which

place was it suburb of? If by Birgu we mean today’s
Fort St Angelo, does it make sense to say that the
fort is a suburb? If by it we mean today’s town of
Victoriosa, does it make sense to say that the town
is a suburb to the fort? Or to Mdina, as traditionally
but mistakenly handed down? But here the same
Grand Harbour area argument of above is applied, namely, that internal
(Source: - Nov 2012)
“o”s in other languages to not change into “u”,
nor into “i”, in Maltese, but the word would have
become “Borgu” instead, which is not what we
Greek. The forthcoming excursus on the Greeks have. Birgu, on the contrary, was Greek Pyrgos,
and the Phoenicians in Malta and Gozo, even if meaning “tower”, which the Byzantines pronounced
laboriously long, is essential for us to understand as “Pirgos”, for their “y” had changed into “i”
the origin of the name of Gaudos. in pronunciation. Regarding the change of “p”
into “b”, one refers to similar changes in various
It is not news-breaking that I make in this article languages, as in “baba” changed into “papa” or
when I say that the inhabitants of Gozo once spoke “papà”.
Greek! The names themselves of Malta, Gozo and
Għawdex are Greek, as well as those of some towns This discussion on Qormi and Birgu, although
like Qormi from hormoi meaning “anchorage” and a slight digression, illustrating the fact that the
Birgu from Pyrgos meaning “tower”. This goes pronunciation of Gaudos as “Gaudos” and not as
against the traditional but mistaken interpretation, “Gavdos” is pre-Byzantine, incidentally proves
namely, that Qormi comes from Casal Curmi, and that, once upon a time, the Grand Harbour was
that Birgu comes from Borgo. once in the hands of the Byzantine power, from
its entrance, the Pyrgos, to its innermost shelter,
Classical Byzantine Maltese
Hormoi. This means also that if the Grand Harbour
Greek English
Pronunciation Pronunciation Pronunciation was the sheltering place of the Byzantines, much of
πύργος pyrgos pirgos Birgu tower the fighting with the Arabs must have taken place
ὅρμοι hormoi ormi Qormi moorage there, in that part of Malta, which was claimed by
other later foreign occupants, such as the Order of
In the case of Qormi, if Qormi had been Curmi, it St John, the French and the British.
would not have changed into Qormi. The Maltese
language invariably changes the final o into u, like I wish here to refer to my earlier publications on
“Rocco” turned into “Rokku”, but not the “o”s the name of Malta.2
in the other syllables, apart from some dialectical
changes. C, however, can turn into Q, as Cala Latin Source Englsih Greek Source English
became Qala. But the Byzantines did not pronounce Mélita Greek Malta Μελίτη Μελίτη Melítē
hormoi as “hormoi”, but as “ormi”; for they Mel mell honey
no longer pronounced the “h”, and by then they
were already pronouncing the diphthong “oi” as The traditional but, again, mistaken interpretation of
“i”. We Maltese, then, feel the “q” as a natural Melita, to be pronounced as “Mélita”, not “Melíta”,
pronouncing aid infront of the vowel, and so we as derived from mel, meaning “honey”, is incorrect.

Vella (2003), 165-166.

4 THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012

The root of mel is mell, as in “mellifluous”, meaning
“flowing with honey” or, metaphorically, “honey-
sweet [words]”. Instead, the name of Malta also
comes from Greek, that is, Melítē, this time to be
pronounced as “Melítē”, not “Mélitē”. And our
Maltese tendency to pronounce Mélita as Melíta
proves a point: that as descendants of Greek-
speaking inhabitants, we have ever since retained the
penultimate accent in many words, both in semitic-
and Romance-based vocabularies, as in “kefríja”,
“kattiveríja” and “Sqallíja”, and not in “kéfrja”,
“kattevérja” and “Sqállja”.

On the contrary, the name of Malta comes from

Greek Melitē. As discussed recently,3 the nymph
called Melitē came to be associated with Malta,
formerly called “Thrinacia”, the last place Odysseus
landed on before coming to the island of Calypso.
This island of Thrinacia belonged to god Helius,
and Melitē was his cousin. While Nereus, husband
of Doris, was the son of Pontus and Gaea alias Ge,
Doris herself, like Clymene, wife of Helius, was the
daughter of Oceanus. So both Clymene and Doris
were Oceanids, and Melitē, Thetis and 48 others,
children of Doris and Nereus, were grandchildren of
Oceanus. The Greeks, then, from very ancient times,
associated this nymph with the island of Helius who, Helius / Melitē.
as a sun-god, married a sea-goddess, Clymene, just
as Nereus, a sea-god, married another sea-goddess,
The Greeks, who competed with the Phoenicians in
both being the parents of Melitē. Associations and
their trade with the West, colonized Malta and Gozo
transposition of names, as Gaudos to Gaulos in the
before the Phoenicians as they did in Sicily. In the
case of Gozo, were not unknown.
case of Sicily, the only reason why the Phoenicians
did not colonize eastern Sicily was the presence of
If the name of Gaudos was given to Gozo by mistake,
an earlier settlement of the Greeks there!
then what was the name of Gozo? Well, the proper
Greek name for Gozo not only was originally, and
Whoever were the earliest settlers of eastern Sicily,
remained so after the introduction of Gaudos by
Gozo and Malta remained geographically closer
Strabo, but, for further references, will remain that
to Greek Sicily of the sixth century B.C. than to
of Gaulos, while its adjective is Gaulitanus.
Phoenician Sicily. As said above, our name for
Sicily is still Sqallija, ultimately from Greek Sikelía,
Some years ago, I discussed the occurrences of the
despite the fact that the Sicilians Italianised and even
name of Gaulos referring to our Island of Gozo.4
“Sicilianised” their own island’s name (Sicilia =
I argued that there was a connection between the
Semitic GWL and the Greek word gaulos which
meant “a round-built Phoenician merchant vessel”,
but it may not be so obvious that the word comes Greek Maltese Italian Sicilian
directly from Punic:5 it rather comes from Greek. Σικελία Sqallija Sicilia “Sixilia”

Public lecture held at the Greek Embasy at Ta’ Xbiex in February, 2011.
Vella (1995a and 1995b).
J. Aquilina (1990): 2. s.v. “Gozo”.

THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012 5

One appreciates the fact here that the influence of the the unstable situation similar to a tug-of-war contest,
name of Sikelía onto Maltese came directly from the decided to seek better pastures, as in Malta and Gozo.
Greeks in Sicily, who always have pronounced the c Phoenician and Greek refugees mixed in these two
as k, never as ċ through influence from Rome after islands, leaving behind such animosities they were
Augustan times. Also, the accent on the penultimate used to in Sicily to the more ambitious ones. Instead,
syllable has been retained ever since, unlike in the the two communities dwelled together in both islands
Latin or Italian pronunciation of Sicília. It is clear, to such an extent that they either each took an island
therefore, that these Greeks, early settlers of our administratively, or both shared the administration
islands, seeing the island of Gozo frequented by in the two islands by a system of rotation. Prior to
several gaûloi, round-built ships commonly used the Roman period, we only have three inscriptions,
by themselves and obviously by the Phoenicians one bilingual in Malta, one in Punic from Gozo, and
as different from war-ships, called the island by another in Greek from Malta, the last two referring to
the same name which the Phoenicians would have municipal governments. This last point, incidentally,
trasliterated into Gwl. throws light on the autonomous situations in the two
islands, situations which show double independence:
But what made these Greeks come to Malta and independence from outside, and independence of
Gozo in the first place? These islands were too one island from the other. Never again was such
close to Sicily to be missed by both Greek and independence experienced on these islands, for even
Phoenician traders. They both realised that these today we have central government for both islands.
islands, with harbours and products that continued
to be praised for centuries later, were ideal places The situation in Malta and Gozo, accommodating
for their emporia, which served double purpose of both Phoenicians and Greeks, is comparable to that
places of settlement and of “refuelling” stations for of Cyprus before the Turkish invasion. Turkish and
their fellow navigators. Even today, Malta and Gozo Greek houses did not form ghettoes, but alternated
serve as a connection spot both for travelling and in the various towns and villages of the whole island.
merchandize purposes.

But there was another reason why the Greeks as

well as the Phoenicians came to Malta and Gozo.
Sicily was roughly divided into two parts: western
Phoenician Sicily and Eastern Greek. Eastern Sicily
and southern Italy were closer to Greece, while
western Sicily was closer to Carthage. The rivalry
between these two peoples does not seem to have
existed elsewhere in the Mediterranean, excluding
Alexander’s invasion of Phoenician territory in the
Near East. On the contrary, the alphabet itself remains
a monument of how the Greeks, with more than a
thousand years of prehistory and oral mythology
behind them, could come to be influenced by the
Phoenicians, not always described by Homer in
bright colours, however. The cause for the rivalry
between the Greeks and the Phoenicians in Sicily
has to be sought elsewhere.

It was the time when farming and merchandize did not

suffice for the upkeeping of the growing population in
Sicily. Warfare provided another option, with various
attractions that go with war: acquisition of land,
career, adventure, military leadership. Bloodshed, Hamilcar did not resist the invasion of the Romans.
however, did not attract the peaceful ones who, in (Source: - Nov 2012)

6 THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012

Larnaca today still keeps the Turkish houses empty, Romans. Their forefathers knew of the outcome of
in case the Turks decide to come back from the the Roman occupation of western Sicily nearly a
North! century earlier through the sea-battle off the Aegates
The idea of bilingualism in Malta and Gozo is
documented by the discovery of a bilingual stele We know from Roman History that the Carthaginian
in Malta. What would be the use of bilingualism settlements all over the Mediterranean were not
had Greeks and Phoenicians excluded each other? wiped out. The exception was that of Carthage,
Furthermore, the reference to divinities in Greek and when the inhabitants, apart from those who escaped,
Punic shows that both peoples honoured the same were sold into slavery before the city was destroyed.
divinities with different names, such as Heracles Recent D.N.A. investigations held in Malta and
and Melqart, Ashtarte and Aphrodite (rather than Lebanon confirm that ultimately the Maltese people
Hera). are akin to the modern Lebanese through the ancient
Phoenicians. These, it should be noted here, were for
The Greek and Phoenician presence was acknowledged a long period governed by the Seleucid Greeks, and
by the Romans after 218 B.C. Livy (LIV. 21.51.1-2) a mixture of the two peoples followed, a mixture
mentions a force of about 2000 Carthaginian soldiers, not different from that of our islands. Also, simple
not Greek, headed by their prefect, Hamilcar, who linguistical analysis of the languages spoken by the
did not resist the invasion of the Romans. This two peoples show a kinship hardly represented by
invasion took place during the consulship of Tiberius a comparison of the Maltese language with their
Sempronius Longus and Publius Cornelius Scipio. southern neighbours.
The fortified town, together with the rest of the island,
naturally assuming also its sister island of Gozo, A Punic inscription, unearthed in 1855 and stored at
were handed over to the Romans at the arrival of the the Archaeological Museum in Valletta, was found
consul, and no battles, therefore, were waged.6 in Gozo decades before 218 B.C. The inscription
mentions two magistrates (rabs) of the Council by
LIV. 21.51.1-2. the names of Arish and Sapput. Furthermore, it

mentions the names of the priest (Ba`alsillek), and
A Lilybaeo consul, Hierone cum classe regia
dimisso relictoque praetore ad tuendam Siciliae oram, the inspector of the quarry (Y’), and it mentions
ipse in insulam Melitam, quae a Carthaginiensibus “the people” of Gozo twice. The presence of the
tenebatur, traiecit. Aduenienti Hamilcar, Gisconis filius, Phoenicians and their descendants in Gozo does
praefectus praesidii, cum paulo minus duobus milibus not rule out their presence in Malta for, as we said,
militum oppidumque cum insula traditur.
Livy mentions a garrison of little less than 2000
When Hiero, with (his) royal fleet, had been dismissed Carthaginians in the bigger island when Titus
and the praetor left behind to guard the coast of Sicily, Sempronius Longus invaded Malta, nor, as said
the consul himself crossed from Lilybaeum to the Island above, does the Greek presence in Malta exclude
of Malta, which was being held by the Carthaginians. their own presence in Gozo.
Hamilcar, son of Gisco, prefect of the garrison, with
little less than two thousand soldiers, and the town with
the island were handed over to him as he was arriving. The Maltese farmers that gave hospitality to St Paul
(Acts 28.2) were not necessarily ignorant of Greek,
The peaceful co-existence of Greeks and Phoenicians, as has always been the interpretation of the word
mixed now with those from Carthage, for several barbaroi attributed to them, made to mean “non-
centuries, effected two things: first, the Greeks Greek speaking”, but, as the forgotten Mikiel Anton
understood that such small islands could not take Vassalli explained better, more than two centuries
two different armies, and so allowed themselves to ago, to mean “bar barr”, that is, “children of the
be protected by the Carthaginians; secondly, both countryside” in Semitic languages. We remind
Greeks and Carthaginians in Malta and Gozo had ourselves here of the Biblical Bar Jonah, that is,
long been accustomed to a peaceful settlement, and “son of Jonah”, and Ħamiem il-bar, that is, “Pigeons
so they were culturally not prepared to resist the of the countryside”, or “wild pigeons”.

traditur in Latin does not imply any betrayal, but surrender, that is, by the Carthaginians.

THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012 7

Acts 28.2.

Οἵ τε βάρβαροι παρεῖχαν οὐ τὴν τυχοῦσαν φιλανθρωπίαν


And the people of the countryside provided for us an

uncommon kindness;

Mikiel Anton Vassalli, Mylsen Phoenico-Punicum

sive Grammatica Melitensis 48-49.

Βάρβαροι, Barbari Actor[um] 28.5.1, et 3, variam

voci huic dedere significationem auctores. Sed magis
naturalis ac genuina quoad hunc locum dari mihi posse
videtur, si vocis originem inspiciamus; quippe quae Monument of Mikiel Anton Vassalli at Żebbuġ.
specialem significatum in sua radice habeat. Barbarus (Source: - Nov 2012)
est vox omnino Orientalis, ad Graecos et Latinos tractu
temporis migrata. In eius origine nihil alius significat knew no others except peasants and farmers, that is,
nisi agrestis, agricultor, habitator deserti: componitur people from Mellieħa and (their) neighbours who, at
enim e duobus nominibus, nempe Bar, filius Syriace, the time of winter, used to inhabit the countryside and
et Barr, campus, ager, silva, quae vox Barr remansit coastline places, which, having suffered shipwreck, he
quoque apud nos Melitenses, qui dicimus ex[empli] called to, he used exactly the word Barbari to indicate
gratia, дamym yl barr, columbae silvestres et c[etera]. (what he meant). And indeed, what other people could
Ast quemadmodum apud Orientales in efformandis St Paul find at the time of winter in those horrid places
adjectivis usus saepe fuit adhibendae vocis Bar, filius, except for sons of the countryside, that is, countryside
una cum re adjectivanda, et sic adjectivus indicatur; people, who used to inhabit those places for the purpose
simili ratione ad indicandum agrestem seu habitatorem of ploughing and pasturing?
campi dicebant filius campi, filius agri, quod proprie
significant Barbarus a Barbarr, nempe agrestis, Similarly, there were Greek-speaking inhabitants
agricola, ru- (…/49) sticus et c[etera]. Hinc est quod
D[ivus] Lucas quum noluisset alios, nisi agrestes et in Malta before and at the Roman occupation of
ruricolas, scilicet Mellihienses et finitimos, qui rura et our islands in 218 B.C. as much as there remained
loca maritima, quo naufragus appulit, hiberno tempore Greek speaking ones right down into Norman and,
colebant, indicare, voce Barbari proprie usus est. Et to some extent, modern times. One here refers to
revera quosnam alios hiemis tempestate potuit D[ivus] a Greek inscription (Demetrius Inscription: C.I.G.
Paulus in horridulis illis locis invenire, nisi filios ruris,
scil[icet] rusticos, qui arandi pascendique caussa loca 14.953.24) produced in Malta on a copper plate
illa inhabitabant? which refers to the Council and Assembly of the
Maltese, and which has been dated 288 B.C. or 279
Barbaroi, Barbari of the Acts 28.5.1, et 3: authors have B.C. It was originally sent to a certain Demetrius,
given various meanings to this word. But it seems to son of Diodotus, from Syracuse. To honour him
me that a more natural and genuine (meaning) can be
given to this passage, if we were to look into the origin for the friendhip and generosity which he showed
of the word, especially since it has a special meaning to the people of Malta, the Council and Assembly
in its root. Barbarus is a completely Oriental word, of Malta expressed their gratefulness by publishing
having travelled to the Greeks and the Latin peoples two copies of the inscription, one of which was sent
by the passage of time. In its origin, it means nothing to him in Syracuse.
else except for “peasant”, “farmer”, “inhabitant of the
desert”: for it is made up of two words, namely, Bar,
“son” in Syrian, and Barr, “a plain, a field, a wood”, Demetrius Inscription: C.I.G. 14.953.24.
which word Barr has remained with us, Maltese, who
say, by way of example, дamym yl barr, “ħamiem il- ὑπὲρ προξενίας καὶ εὐεργεσίας Δημητρίῳ Διοδότου
barr”, pigeons of the wood, etc. But as with the Eastern Συρακοσίῳ καὶ τοῖς ἐγγόνοις αὐτοῦ.
peoples, in forming adjectives, there was often the ἐπὶ ἱεροθύτου ῾Ικέτα ῾Ικέτου, ἀρχόντων δὲ ῾Ηρέου
use of the application of the word Bar, son, with the καὶ Κότητος ἔδοξε τῇ συγκλήτῳ καὶ τῷ δήμῳ τῶν
thing which was to be rendered as adjective, and so Μελιταίων∙ ἐπειδὴ Δημήτριος Διοδότου Συρακόσιος
an adjective is indicated; in the same way, to indicate διὰ παντὸς εὔνους ὑπάρχων τοῖς τε δημοσίοις ἡμῶν
a peasant, or an inhabitant of a plain, they used to say πράγμασι καὶ ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ τῶν πολιτῶν παραίτιος ἀγαθοῦ
“son of the plain”, “son of the field”, which exactly πολλάκι γεγένηται, ἀγαθῇ τύχῃ δεδόχθαι Δημήτριον
mean Barbarus from Bar Barr, that is, “peasant, farmer, Διοδότου Συρακόσιον πρόξενον εἶναι καὶ εὐεργέτην
countryside man” etc. This is why St Luke, since he τοῦ δήμου τῶν Μελιταίων καὶ τοὺς ἐγγόνους αὐτοῦ

8 THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012

ἀρετῆς ἕνεκεν καὶ εὐνοίας ἧς ἔχων διατελεῖ εἰς τὸν “President of the Council”, as in the Vallius
ἡμέτερον δῆμον. τὴν δὲ προξενίαν ταύτην ἀναγράψαι inscription from Gozo, already mentioned in
εἰς χαλκώματα δύο καὶ τὸ ἓν δοῦναι Δημητρίῳ Διοδότου
a previous discussion.8 One also comes across
Melitensium primus in a Latin inscription from
To Demetrius, son of Diodotus, of Syracuse and his Malta,9 all being examples of Roman departure
descendants, for (his) friendship and good services from Punic style of government, that is, from dual
(done). Presidency to single Presidency.
In the time of Hicetas, son of Hicetas, sacrificing
priest, when Hereas and Cotetus were magistrates,
Lucius Castricius: C.I.G. 14.601.
the Council and the Assembly of the Maltese decided
that since Demetrius, son of Diodotus, of Syracuse,
being completely well-minded towards our public
affairs, has often shared the well-being even of each
of the citizens, they should welcome Demetrius, son of
Diodotus, of Syracuse, in his position as protector and
benefactor of the community of the Maltese, together
with his descendants on account of the goodness and
Lucius Castricius Prudens, son of Cyrus, Roman
well-mindedness which he continues to bear towards
Knight, President of the Maltese and the senators,
our people. (It) also (decided) to register this friendship
having ruled and been priest for the divine Augustus,
on two copper plates and to give one to Demetrius, son
set up (this inscription).
of Diodotus, of Syracuse.

Acts 28.7.
The reference to dual magistracy in both the Punic
and the Greek inscriptions of Gozo and Malta ἐn dὲ toῖς perὶ tὸn tόpon ἐkeῖnon ὑpῆrcen cwrίa tῷ
respectively point to the same epoch. This dual prώtῳ tῆς nήson ὀnόmati Poplίῳ.
magistracy does not reflect any Roman system
operative only in Rome during the Republican And in the neighbourhood of that locality, there were
estates of the President of the Island called “Poplius”.
period, when they used the terms consules to
their chief leaders. On the contrary, both the dual Vallius Inscription.
rabs in the Punic inscription of Gozo and the dual
archontes in the Greek inscription of Malta reflect M [ A R C O ] VA L L I O C [ A I I ] F [ [ I L I O ]
Carthaginian style of rule, both at Carthage and QVI[NQVEVI]R[O] RVFO EQVO PVBLICO
in its dependant states. This point also shows that
the Greek settlers on Malta and Gozo adapted OB MERITA ET I[N] SOLACIVM C[AII] VALLI
themselves to Punic style of rule. POSTVMI PATR[O]NI MVNICIPII PATRIS EIVS
... TE.
At some time during Roman rule, as a result
The people of Gozo (dedicated this inscription) to
of the destruction of Carthage in 146 B.C.
Marcus Vallius Rufus, son of Caius, a member of the
and the subsequent gradual decrease in Punic Council of Five, having been honoured with a public
influence in matters of political systems no longer horse by the Divine Antoninus Augustus from money
comparable to a mother-country, this dual system collected, on account of the merits and in compensation
of government gave way to the single-rule system of Caius Vallius Postumus, President of the Council,
his father.
as shown by terms like the prῶtoς Melitaίwn,
meaning, “President of the Maltese”, of a lost Inscription of the Temple of Apollo.
Greek inscription of Tiberius’ times, first recorded
by Jean Quintin7 and referring to a certain Lucius MVNICIPI MELITENSIVM PRIMVS OMNI
Castricius, a Roman Knight; prῶtoς tῆς nῆsou, ... FECIT. ITEM AEDEM MARMOREAM
meaning “President of the Island”, of the Acts
of the Apostles, referring to a certain Publius of ET PODIVM ET PAVIMENTVM AEDIFICAVIT,
Malta, and to the Patronus Municipii, meaning, IN QVOD OPVS VNIVERSVM EX LIBERALITATE

H.C.R. Vella (1980), 26.
H.C.R. Vella (1980), 47; (2002), 82-83.
H.C.R. Vella (2002), 74-75.

THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012 9

From 218 B.C., Malta and
Gozo lost their independence,
although they retained their
autonomous government,
ultimately depending on
Syracuse. They remained
politically under Sicily down
to the take-over by the British
after the Treaty of Paris in
1814. One can add here that
even the Arabs in Malta and
Gozo came from and were
responsible to Sicily.

A number of Greek coins

found in Malta show not
only Greek script, but also
representations from Greek
Aerial photo of Gozo
(Source: - Nov 2012) deities, often related to the
Underworld and fertility10.
SVA SESTERTIOS NVMMOS CENTOS DENOS The presence of a tripod on most of the coins minted
MILLE SEPTINGENTOS NONAGINTA DVOS in Malta during the Roman period is very significant
S[ENTENTIA] QVI[NQVEVI]R[ORVM] OB indeed. The tripod, which gave the name to the Island
MELITENSIVM DESIDERIVM OB MERITA EIVS of Thrinacia, the island of Helius Odysseus visited
last before coming to the island of Calypso, was a
The President of the Council of the Maltese ... completed three-legged stool, with a hole or holes in the seat,
everything. He also consecrated the marble temple of that was placed over a particular hole in the earth
Apollo. He also placed four columns at the portico, commonly believed to be the omphalos of the world.
and built a side-scene and a parapet and flooring, for In some of these coins, Persephone is represented
which complete work he gave and bestowed from his
own generosity, by the decision of the five Councillors
as veiled. Some of them go back to the times of the
on account of the desire of the Maltese, on account first triumvirate in Rome, that is, 35 B.C. and 15
of his merits, having collected the money, 101, 792 B.C., again, nearly 200 years after the coming of the
sesterces. Romans. If so, what was the population of Malta and
Gozo like, if not Greek and Carthaginian?
The Lucius Castricius inscription, although from
Malta, throws light on the political situation current
in both islands. It was set up after the deification of
Emperor Augustus and during the reign of Emperor
Tiberius. Like Gaius Vallius in Gozo, he was a
Roman Knight, a senator of the municipium, of
which he was the President, but he was also priest in
the propagation of the Cult of Augustus, which the
emperor himself, during his lifetime, had instituted
under the title of Roma et Augustus. It should be
emphasized here that this inscription was produced
in Greek, although about 200 years after the coming
of the Romans to Malta and Gozo. This clearly shows
what language the Maltese and Gozitans spoke at
the time. Bronze Coins.

J.C. Sammut (2001).

10 THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012

The Greek community in Malta and Gozo, by the time Sicilian poet said about Gozo, but who authenticated
of the fall of the Roman Empire in A.D. 455 at the the manuscript. The manuscript was in fact
hands of the Vandals, must have survived since local authenticated in the thirteenth century by Deacon
government as well as Church administration passed Philippos Gautis, which surname is probably the
on to the Eastern Roman Empire. We do not know oldest attestation we have of the present surname
of Vandals occupying or pillaging Malta and Gozo. of Gauci.13 Indeed, a man from Gozo is said to be
This would not be surprising since their march was “Għawdxi”, which is exactly what the surname
southwards via Spain and northwards from Africa via implies. This Gozitan resident, judging from his
Italy. Procopius mentions Malta and Gozo only as a role of deaconship, belonged to the Greek Orthodox
port of call of Belisarius when he was travelling from rite, even almost three centuries since Count Roger
Sicily to Africa. The Vandals probably had not yet and his son, Roger II, introduced the return of the
penetrated northwards from Africa when Procopius local Church to Latin rite.
wrote on Malta, and so no clashes with them could
have been reported. The catastrophe, if it existed, Busuttil, Fiorini, Vella eds. (2010), 98-99 (50v. supra,
was to come a few years later. In my opinion, the marg.):
destruction of the Byzantine church at Tas-Silġ on ‘Εγ[ὼ] διάκονος Φί[λι]ππος Γαούτης μ[α]ρ[τυρῶ] καὶ
the premises of the former Temple of Juno could have στέ[ργω].
been done at this period, rather than centuries later by
the Arabs. Clashes with the Arabs in Malta, but not I, Deacon Philippos Gautēs, witness and concur.
in Gozo, certainly took place, and Malta became an
impoverished place, without a Diocesan See, though Significantly, the Greek form of Gauci is not given
not quite uninhabited and converted into Muslim as in the modern Greek form of Gavtis, with the av
often we hear!11 as in Cretan Gavdhos of today, but in the Classical
Greek form and pronunciation of Gaoutis, rendered
Procopius Bellorum historia 3.14.16: as Gautis, where, as we have said, the diphthong
ou has always remained since Classical times the
ἀράμενοί τε κατὰ τάχος τὰ ἱστία, Γαύλῳ τε καὶ Μελίτῃ
ταῖς νήσοις προσέσχον, αἳ τό τε ᾿Αδριατικὸν καὶ representation of our u. This last point is, I repeat,
Τυρρηνικὸν πέλαγος διορίζουσιν. of fundamental importance for our dating of the
Greek presence in Malta and Gozo; for if the Greeks
And while they raised the sails quickly, they approached came to our islands during Byzantine times, Gauci
the islands of Gaulos and Melitē, which separate the
would be pronounced as Gavci: instead, Gauci goes
Adriatic Sea and the Tyrrhenian.
back to Roman times when the name of Gaudos,
The Arabs were allowed by Count Roger to stay and not Gavdhos, was passed on from Crete to our
on the islands and even control them for him. This Gozo.
means that now the islands had a population of
Carthaginians, Greeks, both probably converted The name of Gaudos appears once more in Byzantine
into Christians by Roman times, Jews, Sicilians times indicating the island among a list of others.
representing Norman rule, and Arabs. It was in
Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae (53.5)
this scenario that the famous Greek poem was
written sometime between A.D. 1135 and A.D. Εἰσὶ δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ νῆσοι ἐπίκοινοι αὗται· Κόρσυρα,
1151,12 revealing that Gozo remained Christian Ταυριαννίς, Ἀστυπάλαια, Κῶος, Λαμπαδοῦσα,
and Greek even during Muslim times, and that Γαλάτη, Χίος, Κνίδος, Γαῦδος, Γόρσυνα, Λέσβος,
it was an independent Diocese. This poem was Νίσυρος, Μελίτη, Κρήτη, Τένεδος, Μεγίστη, Κέρκινα,
Γαυλορήτη, Ἴμβρος, Κύπρος, Μῆνιξ, Θήρα, Ἴασος,
written by a Greek exile from Sicily, which, by Σαρδανίς, Κάρπαθος, Σάμος.
the way, remained Greek-speaking also down to
those days. The interesting thing for us in this poem And there are in common with them even these islands:
for the purpose of our discussion is not what this Corsyra, Tauriannis, Astypalaea, Coos, Lampadusa,

Al-Himyari (Brincat {1991}, 7).
J. Busuttil, S. Fiorini and H.C.R. Vella (2010), xiii.
J. Busuttil, S. Fiorini and H.C.R. Vella (2010), xxvii, xciii, xcviii and 304, n.50v. supra.

THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012 11

Galate, Chios, Cnidos, Gaudos, Gorsyna, Lesbos, Maltese inhabitants, was that St Paul got shipwrecked
Nisyros, Melite, Crete, Tenedos, Megiste, Cercina, in the already mentioned island of Mjlet, when we
Gaulorete, Imbros, Cypros, Menix, Thera, Iasos,
Sardanis, Carpathos, Samos.
know that the winds as described by St Luke could
not have blown north-easterly from Serbia to Mjlet
In none of the Greek and Latin lexicons do we through a very narrow and short channel, but over
encounter the term Gaudos or Gaudus. Furthermore, fourteen days across the sea from southern parts of the
no Greek word comes anywhere close to the root of Adriatic Sea to our island of Malta. Another mistake
GAUD. We exclude Gaudum, sive Gauda, which was that of confusing Gozo with Pantelleria, called in
is derived from ancient French meaning “lizard”, Classical times “Cossyra” to which, according to Jean
as we exclude Gussa, sive Goza, meaning “a kind Quintin, who wrote the earliest description of Malta
of war machine”. Both words go back only to the in 1536, which I translated and commented upon in
Middle Ages. 1980, Anna, sister of Dido, fled from Libya.

The Name of Gaudos Jean Quintin (p.46-48; f.C3):

Loquitur his aperte lapis de Gaulo male a nonnullis

The name of Gaudos was given by Strabo to Gaulos, factam Cosyram. Quam geographici omnes inter
the sister-island of Malta, by mistake. Mistakes of promontoria Lilybaeum et Mercurii, hoc Africae,
this sort during Roman and later times included the illud Siciliae, pari pene intervallo reponunt. Nautis
attribution of the so-called “Maltese dog” to our hoc tempore Pantellaria nominata, centum a Melita
millibus, quum sit Gaulos ferme contigua. Deceptos hoc
Malta, when, as I explained in the past,15 it belonged dixisse coniicio Ovidiano illo versu, Fastorum tertio:
to the island of Mjlet in the Ionian Sea between Serbia Fertilis est Melite sterili vicina Cosyrae,
and Italy. Another mistake, never accepted by the Insula quam Libyci verberat unda freti.
dum is Annam fugientem e Carthagine describit; quam
equidem non dubito a promontorio Mercurii (nautae
nunc sua lingua Capo Bono vocant, adversum Siciliae
in altum valde procurrens) Cosyram venisse - nulla
enim promontorio vicinior, abest quinquaginta millibus
pass. - deinde recta quo destinarat Melitam ad amicum
regem contendisse. Propterea Cosyram cum Melita
coniunxisse poetam.

This inscription clearly treats of Gozo, which was

mistakenly identified by some with Cosyra. All
geographers however place Cosyra between the
promontories of Lilybaeum and of Mercury, the latter
in Africa, the former in Sicily, practically half-way in
between. Pantellaria, so called by the sailors at that
time, is a hundred miles distant from Malta, while
Gozo is very near Malta. Those who have said this, I
gather, were deceived by that verse, in the third book
of Ovid’s Fasti:
Fertilis est Melite sterili vicina Cosyrae,
Insula quam Libyci verberat unda freti.
Ovid was there describing how Anna fled from Carthage.
Of course, I have no doubt that she came to Cossyra
starting from the promontory of Mercury (which the
sailors today call in their own language Capo Bono,
looking towards the deep, right opposite to Sicily) - for
there is no other island nearer to this promontory than
Cosyra and it is fifty miles distant from it - and that from
Strabo - The name of Gaudos was given by Strabo to Gaulos, there she came straight to her friend the king in Malta,
the sister-island of Malta, by mistake. which was her destination. For this reason I believe that
(Source: - Nov 2012) the poet has linked up Cosyra with Malta.

H.C.R. Vella (1980), 24; (1995b), 11-15; (2002), 130-137; (2004), 162-163; (2010), 11.

12 THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012

Another mistake was that of Ovid who claimed that famous Turkish admiral once reported to Pasha,
Battus was king of Malta, when he meant Cyrene.16 who had ordered him to capture Malta, according
to Greek humour, “Malta Yok”, that is, “Malta does
Ovid, Fast. 3.569-70: not exist”!

Hanc petit, hospitio regis confisa vetusto.
Hospes opum dives rex ibi Battus erat. It is to be observed here that we have, since
medieval times, lost the name of Gaulos, but have
She sought this (island), having trusted in the old retained both a transliteration of Gaudos, that is,
hospitality of the king. There, King Battus was (her) Għawdex, and its nickname or a contortion of it,
host, a very rich man. that of Gozo. Indeed, the original pronunciation
of Għawdex was slightly different from what it is
Another mistake was the old claim that Malta was
today. The ancient Maltese used to pronounce the
once the place where an international council of
“għ” with a hard guttural sound, much as some of
bishops was held, when Milevum in Africa was
the inhabitants of Għarb in Gozo still pronounce
confused with Malta, and, as a result, we received
the name of their village. For this reason, those who
the wrong adjective of “Melivetanus”.
transcribed the name of Għarb up to the previous
century wrote Garbo, and not Arbo. In the same
Jean Quintin (p.24-26; f.B1v.):
way, parish priests wrote Għargħur as Gregorio,
Inde illa Melitensia concilia, receptissimae inter not because, as it is often said, that Għargħur
ecclesiastica decreta auctoritatis, Melivetana Gratianus pronounced as “Gargur” is derived from Girgor,
nominat; et magnus ille Manichaeorum propugnator but, on the contrary, because Gregorio, like Garbo,
Faustus, Melivetanus pariter nuncupatur. Quam nunc was the Italianization for Għargħur pronounced then
vulgo appellationem Romana similiter curia usurpat, de
Melita nostra sentiens, ex qua Melivetum detorserunt;
as “Gargur”. This ancient pronunciation of “għ” was
cum neutra voce vulgaris appellatio convenit, Malta close to the Greek pronunciation of “g”. Secondly,
vocatur. the diphthong au is common to both Gaudos and
Għawdex; thirdly, the change of vowel from “o” to
Hence Gratianus calls by the name of Melivetana “e”, from Gaudos to Għawdex, and the affinity of
those Maltese Councils whose authority is universally
accepted among ecclesiastical decrees; and Faustus, that
s to x in the two words are explained by dialectical
great champion of the Manichaeans, was also called changes. Thus, in Maltese, we have the word ħobż
Melivetanus. Similarly the Holy See now commonly pronounced as ħebż by some people from Żabbar
makes use of this name, meaning our Melita, from which and other places, while the pronunciation of s in
name they have distortedly derived the appellation Maltese is often met as x in other Semitic dialects
of Melivetum. The people commonly call the place
with neither of these names, since the island is called
of the same words. Thus, ħamsa in Maltese is
Malta. pronounced as ħamxa in Israel.

Yet another mistake is that of calling the island of If Gaudos was not our island, then what do we know
Gozo as “the Island of Calypso”, when Classical of the Cretan Gaudos?
geographers place Ogygia East of the Straits of
Messina before the turn into the Gulf of Taranto.17 The Ancient References to Gaudos, near Crete
Ironically, a year and a half ago, I had occasion to
show how the last place Odysseus visited before This island of Gaudos near Crete bore a number
coming to Ogygia, as also mentioned above, was of names throughout the years. Hesiod, the writer
Thrinacia, the island of Malta. He could not have of the Works and days and of the Theogony, was
gone from Malta to Gozo, but was described by the first classical author to refer to it indirectly as
Homer as having travelled much greater distances Ogylie, known to the Attic dialect as “Ogylia”,
than that, after passing close to the Straits of when he mentioned its surrounding waters by the
Messina. Indeed, a litany of mistakes: maybe it is term of “Ogyliou pontou”, that is, “of the Ogylian
because Malta and Gozo are so small and, as the Sea” (Hesiod Fr. 204.58-62). In a fragment of his,

See full discussion in H.C.R. Vella (1995b), 5-8.
Public Lecture February, 2011.

THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012 13

Ogygia was situated in the West, while Ogylia by

Sch. Hom. Od.1.85:

᾿Ωγυγίην˙ ἐν τῆι κατὰ ᾿Αντίμαχον ᾿Ωγυλίην γράφεται.

Διαφέρουσι δὲ οἱ τόποι. Τὴν μὲν γὰρ ᾿Ωγυγίαν ἐντὸς
εἶναι πρὸς ἑσπέραν. Τὴν δὲ ᾿Ωγυλίαν κατὰ Κρήτην
῾Ησίοδός φησι κεῖσθαι.

Ogygie; meanwhile it is written according to Antimachus

as “Ogylie”. But the places differ one from the other.
For Hesiod says that Ogygia, on the one hand, exists
within towards the West, and that Ogylia, on the other
hand, lies near Crete.

The reference to Ogygia to the West needs to be

explained by the fact that for the Greeks the West was
the region of the setting sun beyond their mainland
(Achaea and the Peloponnesus), that is, Italy,
otherwise also called “Hesperia”, and the Ionian
Sea, the site of Ogygia. Apollonius of Rhodes, also
of Alexandrine times, identifies Calypso’s island
with Nymphaea, deep into the Adriatic Sea, and so
Hesiod the Greek poet.
(Source: Ogygia would be identified with it (Apollonius of
/athens-national-museum - Nov 2012) Rhodes 4.566-575).

Hesiod relates how one abstained from sending A.R. 4.566-575:

a messenger to speak on his behalf with Helen of
Sparta, but instead he himself travelled across the αὐτὰρ ἔπειτ’ ἐπὶ τῇσι παραὶ Κέρκυραν ἵκοντο,
ἔνθα Ποσειδάων ᾿Ασωπίδα νάσσατο κούρην,
sea past Ogylia to find her.18 ἠύκομον Κέρκυραν, ἑκὰς Φλειουντίδος αἴης,
ἁρπάξας ὑπ’ ἔρωτι μελαινομένην δέ μιν ἄνδρες
HES. Fr. 204.58-62: ναυτίλοι ἐκ πόντοιο καλαινῇ πάντοθεν ὕλῃ
οὐδέ τινα μνηστῆρα μετάγγελον ἄλλον δερκόμενοι, Κέρκυραν ἐπικλείουσι Μέλαιναν∙
ἔπεμψεν, τῇ δ’ ἐπὶ καὶ Μελίτην, λιαρῷ περιγηθεέες οὔρῳ,
ἀλλ’ αὐτὸς σὺν νηῒ πολυκλῆϊδι μελαίνηι αἰπεινήν τε Κερωσσόν, ὕπερθε δὲ πολλὸν
βῆ ὑπὲρ ᾿Ωγυλίου πόντου διὰ κῦμα κελαινὸν ἐοῦσαν Νυμφαίην παράμειβον, ἵνα κρείουσα
Τυνδαρέου ποτὶ δῶμα δαΐφρονος, ὄφρα ἴδοιτο Καλυψώ ᾿Ατλαντὶς ναίεσκε. ...
᾿Αργείην ῾Ελένεν, ...
For then, following those, they came to Cercyra, where
He did not even send another noble messenger, but went Poseidon made to settle the girl Asopis, the beautifully-
himself on a fast black ship, on a rough swell across the haired Cercyra, away from the land of Phlius, having
Ogylian Sea to the house of the wise Tyndareus to see stolen her urged by love; and sailors from the sea,
the Argive Helen. looking at it darkened from every side by a dark forest,
call it “Black Cercyra”; and then, pleased with a warm
breeze, they passed even Melite, and lofty Cerossus,
The Alexandrian editor of Homer’s Odyssey also and Nymphaea, being much distant from them, where
refers to this island as “Ogylia”, after Hesiod. He Mistress Calypso, daughter of Atlas, used to live.
was referring to its confusion with another island
of a similarly sounding name, that of “Ogygia”, an
error created by a certain Antimachus.19 This scholiast Similarly, some centuries later in Byzantine times,
distinguishes between the two islands, saying that Procopius once more identifies the island of Calypso

HES. Fr. 204.58-62.


Other late Classical writers repeat this confusion of Ogygia with Ogylia sive Caudi sive Caudos, as, for example, the anony-

mous author of the Etymologicum Gudianum (s.v. “Cytheria”), who says that in that island of Caudos was a temple dedicated to
Aphrodite. In the same statement, he wrongly identifies the island with that of Calypso.

14 THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012

with one of the three Othoni islands in the Ionian Sea, Another important Alexandrine scholar and poet,
not far from Corfù.20 Callimachus, Chief Librarian of Alexandria and
promoter of original style of writing from that of
PROCOP. 8.22.18-21: Classical times, further advances the identification
of this island by the western coast of Crete, that
οὗτος δὲ ὁ στόλος ἄχρι ἐς τὴν Φαιάκων χώραν, ἡ νῦν
Κέρκυρα ἐπικαλεῖται, οὐδὲν ἄχαρι ἐργάζεσθαι ἔσχε. is, Ogylia, Caudi, Caudus and Caudo with yet
νῆσον γὰρ οὐδεμίαν ἐν τῷδε τῷ διάπλῳ οἰκουμένην another name, that is, Gaudos.22 But in doing
ξυμβαίνει εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ κατὰ τὴν Χάρυβδιν πορθμοῦ so, Callimachus called Gaudos “the island of
μέχρι ἐς τὴν Κέρκυραν ὥστε πολλάκις ἐγὼ ἐνταῦθα Calypso”, as Antimachus had done when he
γενόμενος διηπορούμην ὅπη ποτὲ ἄρα τῆς Καλυψοῦς confused this island’s other name of Ogylia with
ἡ νῆσος εἴη. ταύτης γὰρ τῆς θαλάσσης οὐδαμῇ νῆσον
τεθέαμαι, ὅτι μὴ τρεῖς, οὐ πολλῷ ἄποθεν τῆς Φαιακίδος, Ogygia.
ἀλλ’ ὅσον ἀπὸ σταδίων τριακοσίων, ἄγχιστά πη
ἀλλήλων οὔσας, βραχείας κομιδῇ καὶ οὐδὲ ἀνθρώπων CALL. Fr. 13:
οἰκία ἐχούσας οὔτε ζῴων οὔτε ἄλλων τὸ παράπαν οὐδέν.
᾿Ωθονοὶ δὲ καλοῦνται τανῦν αἱ νῆσοι αὗται. καὶ φαίη ᾿Απολλόδωρος δὲ ἐπιτιμᾷ Καλλιμάχῳ, συνηγορῶν τοῖς
ἄν τις τὴν Καλυψὼ ἐνταῦθα γενέσθαι, καὶ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ περὶ τὸν ᾿Εραστοσθένη, διότι, καίπερ γραμματικὸς ὦν,
τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα γῆς Φαιακίδος ὄντα οὐ πολλῷ ἄποθεν παρὰ τὴν ῾Ομηρικὴν ὑπόθεσιν καὶ τὸν ἐξωκεανισμὸν
ἢ σχεδία, ὥς φησιν ῞Ομηρος, ἢ ἄλλῳ τῷ τρόπῳ νεώς τῶν τόπων, περὶ οὓς τὴν πλάνην φράζει, Γαῦδον
τινος χωρὶς ἐνθένδε διαπορθμεύσασθαι. καὶ Κόρκυραν ὀνομάζει. ἐπιτιμᾷ δὲ καὶ τοῖς μὲν
ἄλλοις συγγνώμην εἶναι, Καλλιμάχῳ δὲ μὴ πάνυ,
This expedition as far as the country of the Phaeacians, μεταποιουμένῳ γε γραμματικῆς ὃς τὴν μὲν Γαῦδον
which now is called “Cercyra”, offered nothing Καλυψοῦς νῆσόν φησι, τὴν δὲ Κόρκυραν Σχερίαν.
unpleasant to toil at. For it happens that there is no
inhabited island in this journey from the straits of But Apollodorus censures Callimachus, while he agrees
Charybdis as far as Cercyra, with the result that I, with the followers of Eratosthenes because, although
having often been there, wondered where ever was he is a grammarian, against the Homeric idea and the
indeed the island of Calypso. For I have nowhere localization of the places, about which he speaks clearly,
seen an island of this sea, except for three, not far mentions Gaudos and Corcyra. And he censures even
away from Phaeacia, but about 300 stades distant, the others who have the same opinion, and Callimachus
being very close to each other, quite small and not in particular when he changes from what is established,
even having habitations of men or of animals or of he who says that Gaudos is the island of Calypso, and
other things whatever. Today these islands are called that Corcyra is Scheria.
“Othoni”. And one would say that Calypso was here,
and that from here Odysseus, being not far away from Just as in Alexandrine times Homer’s scholiast
the land of Phaeacia, crossed from here either on a corrects Antimachus, so also in Roman times, in the
raft, as Homer says, or in another manner without first years of the Christian era, Apollodorus, who
any boat.
wrote in Greek on several interpretations of Greek
Luckily for our identification of Ogylia with mythology, corrected Callimachus in propagating
the island near Crete, Homer’s scholiast, quoted this confusion of islands, now, however, called
above, further identifies Ogylia with Caudi.21 This Gaudos and Ogygia respectively.23 Our quotation
identification of Ogylia with Caudi was again of Apollodorus’ correction of Callimachus comes
to be confirmed in the 10th century A.D. by the through Apollodorus’ contemporary in Rome by
lexicographer Suidas. the name of Strabo, who wrote also in Greek on
geographical matters. Despite his awareness of the
SUID. s.v. “Caudo”: confusion of the two islands from centuries earlier,
Strabo yet further advances the confusion by shifting,
νῆσος πλησίον Κρήτης ἔνθα μεγίστοι ὄναγροι perhaps for the first time, this same island of Gaudos
γίνονται. to our archipelago in the centre of the Mediterranean
An island near Crete where very big donkeys are Sea. This brings us to our discussion of our Gozo,
born. also called “Gaudos”.

For the real location of Ogygia, see my public lecture delivered in February, 2011.
SCH. HOM. Od. 1.85.
CALL. Fr. 470 and Fr. 13.
CALL. Fr. 13.

THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012 15

far from the Nymphaea of
Apollonius of Rhodes, which
island of Melitē once was also
the object of controversy when
it was referred to as the site of
St Paul’s shipwreck, as already
mentioned above (Apollonius
of Rhodes 4.566-575).24

In his transposition of Melitē

and Gaudos from the Ionian
Sea and Cretan waters
respectively to the sea south
of Sicily, Strabo may have
been misled by three factors.
Gillieru Point
(Source: - Nov 2012) In the first place, the second paragraph of the
fragment of Callimachus25 Strabo preserved for us
has a lacuna which may or may not have contributed
CALL. Fr. 470: to Strabo’s own mistake. That paragraph starts with
the statement, “He (Apollodorus) censures also
a. Γαῦδος
b. ὀλίγην νησῖδα Καλυψοῦς. those who clearly mention Sicily”. Then comes
the lacuna, after which Strabo refers to the mistake
a. Gaudos; of Callimachus according to Apollodorus when
b. A small island of Calypso. he said that Gaudos was the island of Calypso.
If we admit the connection between the first part
Gaudos, near Melitē and the second part around the lacuna, then Strabo
would be simply passing on the tradition already
In his description of the sea South of Sicily, Strabo existing in Alexandrian times that Gaudos had
gives the distance, albeit inaccurate, of our two been confused with our Gaulos.26 If we do not
islands from Pachynus, close to Cape Passaro, calling admit the connection, then the reference of Gaudos
the two islands as “Melitē” and “Gaudos”. Strabo to our island of Gozo was made by Strabo for the
yet commits one more mistake when he says that first time here.
in this island of Melitē were bred small dogs called
“Melitaean”. In the second place, Strabo may have been misled
both by the name of Melitē in the Adriatic Sea and
STR. Geog. 6.2.11:
by its vicinity to Ogygia according to Apollonius
πρόκειται δὲ τοῦ Παχύνου Μελίτη, ὅθεν τὰ κυνίδια, ἃ of Rhodes who called it “Nymphaea”, and which
καλοῦσι Μελιταῖα, καὶ Γαῦδος, ὀγδοήκοντα καὶ ὀκτὼ some writers confused with Ogylia, that is Caudos
μίλια τῆς ἄκρας ἀμφότεραι διέχουσαι. or Gaudos near Crete. Thus, the coupling of the
islands of Melitē and Ogygia in the Adriatic Sea, the
And away from Pachynus lie Melite, from where come
the small dogs, which they call “Melitaean”, and Gaudos, transposition of Ogygia to Gaudos near Crete, and
both distant from the promontory by 88 miles. the yet further transposition of Gaudos to Gaulos
adjacent to another Melitē probably misled Strabo
This island of Melitē he had in mind, breeding these in calling Gaulos as “Gaudos”, which names,
dogs, was clearly referred to by ancient scholars furthermore, are different from each other by only
themselves as that island in the Ionian Sea, not one letter.

H.C.R. Vella (2002), 120.
CALL. Fr. 13.
A discussion on the name of Gaulos was also carried out some years ago by Vella, 1995a: 16-18, 1995b: 5, 9-10, and 2002:

16 THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012

In the third place, we know that both Gaudos near opposite Matius (is) Dia; opposite the promontory of
Crete and Gaulos near Malta were once Phoenician Itanus (are) Onysia, Leuce; opposite Hierapytna (are)
Chrysa, Gaudos.
settlements. In our quotation of the anonymous writer
of the Etymologicum Gudianum, we learn that in that But before these two Roman writers, we have yet
island there was a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, a another name for the Cretan Gaudos, this time
goddess venerated by both Phoenicians and Greeks. also from Alexandrine times. Both the geographer
One should bear in mind also that that island’s city Ptolemy and the historian Hierocles produce a
was called “Phoenicia”, typical of Phoenician statement, repeating each other verbatim, saying
settlers. Hence, all these details contributed to the that the island’s name was Claudus, thus adding
confusion of the two islands. in the name the letter “L”.27 Furthermore, they also
say that this island had a city with the same name
Et. Gud. s.v. “Cytheria”:
of the island, that is, Claudus. That a small island
Διὸ καὶ σκοτίας ᾿Αφροδίτης ἐν Φαιστῷ ἱερὸν εἶναι bore the same name as its chief city was common
φασιν. ἐν δὲ Καύδῳ καὶ Καλυψοῦς ἐστιν ᾿Αφροδίτης in classical antiquity, as can be seen also from the
ἱερόν. capital cities of Melitē and Gaulos called after their
own islands.
And for this reason they say that at Phaestus there
is a temple dedicated to the black Aphrodite. And at
Caudus and (the island) of Calypso there is a temple PTOL. Geog. s.v. “Claudos”; HIEROCL. HIST. s.v.
of Aphrodite. “Claudos”:

νῆσος, ἐν ᾗ πόλις Κλαῦδη.

Without contributing to the confusion of Cretan
Gaudos with Ogygia or Gaulos, two Roman writers An island, in which there is a city (called) “Claudē”.
confirm the location of Gaudos close to Crete. Mela,
a geographer, includes Gaudos in a list of islands A variant of the name of Claudus is found as
close to Crete. These other islands were Astypalaea, Clauda in the account of the voyage of St Paul from
Naumachus, Zephyre and Chryse. Palestine to Rome given in Greek by St Luke, the
MELA 2.7.13:

Juxta (Cretam) est Astypalaea, Naumachos, Zephyre, N.T. Act. Ap. 27.16:
Chryse, Gaudos ...
νησίον δέ τι ὑποδραμόντες καλούμενον Κλαῦδα
Next to Crete is Astypalaea, Naumachus, Zephyre, ἰσχύσαμεν μόλις περικρατεῖς γενέσθαι τῆς σκάφης, ...
Chryse, Gaudos ...
Having run a bit South of a small island called “Clauda”,
we were hardly able to maintain the control of the
Pliny, a Roman scientist and encyclopaedist, places boat.
Gaudos close to Chrysa sive Chryse opposite to
Hierapytna in Crete. This account further confirms the vicinity of Gaudos
to Crete. Another variant is found as Claudia in the
PLIN. Nat. 4.12.61:
unknown writer of Stadiasmus sive Periplus Mari
Reliquae circa eam ante Peloponnesum duae Corycoe, Magni. Here the writer says that this island had a
totidem Mylae, et latere septentrionali dextra Cretam city and a harbour.
habenti contra Cydoneam Leuce et duae Budroe, contra
Matium Dia, contra Itanum promunturium Onysia,
Leuce, contra Hierapytnam Chrysa, Gaudos. Stad. 328:
The rest (of the islands) around it (Crete), opposite ἀπὸ δὲ Κλαυδίας εἰς Φοίνικα στάδιοι τ’. ἔχει πόλιν καὶ
the Peloponnesus, are the two (islands of) Coryci, and λιμένα.
an equal number of (islands of) Mylae; and on the
northern side, with Crete on the right-hand side, opposite And from Claudia to Phoenix there are 19 stades. It has
Cydonea are Leuce and the two (islands of) Budri; a city and a harbour.

PTOL. Geog. s.v. “Claudos”; HIEROCL. HIST. s.v. “Claudos”.

THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012 17

In medieval times, Gozo came to be referred to Nicephorus, H.S., in Busuttil, J. (1969), 17-18:
as Gaudos of Melitē, either as Melitogaudos or as
ἐν ᾧ δὲ διέτριβεν ἐκεῖσε, ἀγγέλλεται αὐτῷ ὡς ὁ υἱὸς
Melitēgaudos. Similarly, Malta was at the same time αὐτοῦ ´Αταλάριχος καὶ Τεόδωρος ὁ τὴν ἀξίαν μάγιστρος,
referred to as Melitē of Gaudos, that is, Gaudomelitē. Θεοδώρου δὲ τοῦ βασιλέως ἀδελφοῦ υἱός, σὺν ἄλλοις
The compound name for Malta and Gozo had been τισὶν ἐπιβουλεύειν αὐτῷ ἤμελλον. καὶ τοῖς μηνύσασι
created by Byzantine scholars to distinguish these πεισθεὶς τούτων τὰς ῥῖνας καὶ τὰς χεῖρας ἐξέτεμε, καὶ
islands from Melitē in the Adriatic Sea and Gaudos ´Αταλάριχον μὲν εἰς τὴν νῆσον τὴν λεγομένην Πρίγκιπον
ἐξόριστον ἐξέπεμπε, Θεόδωρον δὲ πρὸς τὴν νῆσον τὴν
near Crete. The name of Melitēgaudos appears in Γαυδομελέτην προσαγορευομένην, ἐπιτρέψας τῷ ἐκεῖσε
a marginal note written by the scholiast (the poet δουκί, ἡνίκα πρὸς αὐτὸν καταλάβοι. καὶ τὸν ἕτερον τῶν
himself) of the already mentioned 12th-century ποδῶν ἀφελέσθαι. κατὰ ταῦτα δὲ καὶ τοὺς συγγνόντας
Greek poem in f.84v. αὐτοῖς τὰ τῆς ἐπιβουλῆς ἐτιμωρήσατο.

Tristia ex Melitogaudo 166-167 (84v.7, marg.): In the time he spent there, it was announced to him that
his son, Atalarichus, and Theodorus, the real teacher,
[ἐνθάδε] φησι πῶς ὁ ποιητὴς ἐξω[ρί]σθη ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ and the son of the brother of King Theodorus, were
Μελιτηγαύδω. about to contrive revenge against him along with
others. And having been persuaded by those who
Here he says how the poet was banished in Melitegaudos disclosed (the matter), he cut off the noses and hands
itself. of these men, and he sent off Atalarichus, on the one
hand, to the island called “Principus” in exile, and
Theodorus, on the other hand, to the island called
However, the term Gaudomelitē had existed “Gaudomeletē”, having referred the matter to the leader
much earlier than medieval times. In fact, its over there whenever he would come up with him, and
first occurrence is found in the 5th-century (said) that he was getting the other out of the way to
apocryphal Acts of Peter and Paul where the set free the other of the rest. And in the same manner
narrative refers to St Paul’s shipwreck in Malta, he even revenged on those who shared their feelings
with them regarding the matters of the conspiracy.
while a second occurrence goes back to the 7th
century in the Historiae Syntomos by Patriarch From the sixteenth century we have two important
Nicephoros.28 sources that confirm the confusion of the Cretan
Gaudos with our Gaulos.29
Patrologiae 161, 929-932:
Jean Quintin, Insulae Melitae descriptio 42:
1. ἐγένετο μετὰ τὸ ἐξελθεῖν τὸν ἅγιον Παῦλον ἀπὸ
Γαυδομελέτης τῆς νήσου ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ ᾽Ιταλίαν ... Paulus (inquiunt) Cretam deserens e Claudae (Ptolemaeo
Claudus est, Plinio Gaudos, vulgo nunc Gozo) medio
It came to pass that Saint Paul, after he left from the inter Occidentem et Meridiem portu, ...
island of Gaudomelete, came to Italy ...
Paul (they say), leaving Crete from (the island) of Clauda
2. δεξάμενος δὲ ὁ Παῦλος τοὺς δύο ἄνδρας τοὺς (to Ptolemy it is Claudus, to Pliny (it is) Gaudos, today
ἀπεσταλμένους μετὰ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς μηνὶ Μάιῳ εἰκάδι, (it is) commonly (called) “Gozo”), half way between
πρόθυμος ἐγένετο καὶ ηὐχαρίστησεν τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ the West and the South ...
δεσπότῃ ἡμῶν ´Ιησοῦ Χριστῷ. ἀποπλεύσας δὲ ἀπὸ
Γαυδομελέτης οὐκ ἔτι ἦλθεν διὰ ´Αφρικῆς ἐπὶ τὰ μέρη In his description of Malta, Jean Quintin, who
´Ιταλίας, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ Σικελίαν ἀνέδραμεν, ἕως οὗ ἦλθεν ἐν
correctly refers to the island of Gozo as Gaulos,
Συρακούσῃ τῇ πόλει ... .
and not Gaudos, discusses, among other things, the
And Paul, having received the two men, sent with the Pauline tradition and starts with St Paul’s voyage
letter on the 20th day of the month of May, became after St Luke, repeating the name of Clauda, but
eager and thanked our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. adding the important remark that during his times
And having sailed away from Gaudomelete, he still Cretan Gaudos was commonly called “Gozo”,
did not come to the parts of Italy through Africa, but
exactly as we call our Gaulos today. By the sixteenth
we made a course up to Sicily until he came to the city
of Syracuse ... . century, therefore, two islands were both called

Nicephorus, H.S., in Busuttil, J. (1969), 17-18. I thank Prof. Stanley Fiorini for the availability of the last two quotations. See
also J. Busuttil S. Fiorini and H.C.R. Vella (2010), xxiii.
H.C.R. Vella ed. (1980).

18 THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012

(Source: - Nov 2012)

“Gozo”, Gaudos near Crete and Gaulos / Gaudos A sixteenth-century map of Malta and Gozo referring to the
island of Gozo in two names: Gozo and Claudus.
near Malta. This is also confirmed by a map also
from the sixteenth century, quite similar to the first
map of Malta and Gozo as it appeared in the first Finally, yet another derivative from the name of
edition of Jean Quintin, where the island of Gozo Gaudos, but referring to Gozo of Malta, still persists
is given two names: Gozo and Claudus. by tradition of mistake within the confines of the
Gozitan Curia and Diocese. As late as today, the
Anon (1581) in Vella (2002), 150: adjective used in Latin for “Gozitan” is sometimes
given as Gaudisiensis instead of Gaulitanus. Such
Claudus, Goze. name appears, for example, in the last Latin edition
Claudus, Gozo. of the Gozitan Ordo, a directory for the use of
liturgical feasts within the Diocese of Gozo.30
This last reference to the names of Gozo and Claudus
attributed to Gaulos in the sixteenth century further Ordo of the Diocese of Gozo (1978)
confirms the unfortunate transposition of names Gaudos Gaudisium Gaudisiensis
from one island to the other for several centuries. Gaulos Gaulitanus
Here one must add that, some years before these
two sources, yet another transposition from Gaudos
to Gaulos with a freer variant of Clauda came Conclusion
through a fifteenth-century translation of Ptolemy
by Pietro della Torre when he called Malta’s Gozo Gaudos was originally and still is the name of a
as “Glauconis”. very small island south-west of Crete. It was itself
confused with Calypso’s Island of Ogygia when
Della Torre (1499), s.v. “Glauconis”: at the very beginning it was called “Ogylia”. This
island was subsequently named as “Caudus” or
Insula et civitas. 36 (1/3) 34 (2/3). “Caudi”, as well as “Claudus”, “Clauda” and
Island and city. 36 (1/3) 34 (2/3). even “Claudia”, commonly called also “Gozo”

Anon. (1978).

THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012 19

by the sixteenth century. The confusion of Gaudos Modern Authors
near Crete with Gaulos near Malta, south of Sicily, Anonymous (1581). Map of Malta and Gozo.
arose from Strabo in the first century A.D., together
with the confusion of our Melitē with another Melitē Anonymous (1978). Ordo Divini Officii persolvendi Sacrique
peragendi in Templo Principe Gaudisiensi universaque
in the Adriatic Sea. The result of all this is that the Dioecesi Exc[ellentissi]mi ac Rev[erendissi]mi D[omi]ni
classical name of our Gozo remains Gaulos, while Nicolai J[oseph] Cauchi, Dei et Apostolicae Sedis gratia
its present names of Għawdex and Gozo are derived Episcopi Gaudisiensis, jussu editus pro anno liturgico 1977-78.
Malta: Ħajja Press.
from Gaudos of Crete.
Brincat, J.M. (1991), Malta 870-1054: Al-Himyari’s account.
Valletta, Malta,

Busuttil, J., Fiorini, S., and Vella, H.C.R. (2010). Tristia ex

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Professor Horatio Caesar Roger Vella is an Associate Professor
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20 THE GOZO OBSERVER (No.27) - December 2012